A Scout Paddles His Own Canoe

by Sean Magnuson for Alamo Area BSA: March, 2017

Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful…

The 12 points of the Scout Law dictate how a Scout is to behave and to live his life. Implied in these points is the idea that a Scout should be striving towards self reliance. In fact, a big part of the personal progression part of the Scout Method, is the development of self-reliance. Lord Robert Baden-Powell wrote in his ‘Aids to Scoutmastership’, “Help the boy to become self-reliant, resourceful, to ‘paddle his own canoe’”. A Scout’s life shouldn’t be one of riding in a row boat that someone else powers, it should be one where he provides his own power.

Scouting, while certainly more affordable than most youth activities (ask me about my oldest’s marching band bill sometime), isn’t free. From dues, to uniforms, to camp fees, the costs can add up. But, a Scout should paddle his own canoe.

In the 21st century society that we live in, life is very hectic. Between school, Scouting, sports and other extra-curricular activities, there is rarely extra time anymore and often times for parent’s the thought of adding in fundraising on top of everything else is a little daunting. The easier thing to do is to say, ‘I’ll just pay for him to do this or that’. But in doing so, you are shorting your Scout a valuable life lesson. You are paddling a canoe that he can and should learn to paddle on his own. This is one of the most important life lessons that a Scout can learn through the Scouting program.

From the time he was a Tiger Cub, I have made it a point to help my oldest ‘paddle his canoe’. In our case, popcorn has paid almost his entire way. In the last several years, camp cards have also had a part. During those seasons, my son and I spend a few hours a week knocking on doors or setting up in front of a store somewhere. Does it take more time from me? Yes. Would it be easier to just take out my checkbook? Yes. Is the extra time and hassle worth it? Absolutely yes!

You see, quite aside from the financial benefits to our family not having to pay those bills, I can see the value in my son’s life. I can see the evidence of years of selling in his self-assuredness, in his interpersonal relational skills, and in his salesmanship abilities. He has learned the ability to go up to a total stranger and ask for a sale. He can organize his sales route, set his own goals and achieve them. He has learned that he can provide for his own needs. This is not to say that he is ready to start selling freezers to the Inuit people, but he is better at these things than most of his non-selling peers and much better than he would have been had he not had these experiences.

I want to encourage all of our Scouting parents out there to think about this as they contemplate their Scout’s Scouting career. Whether its popcorn or camp cards or something more specific to your Pack, Troop or Crew, the opportunity for learning, growth and development is there. Don’t pass them up. In the coming weeks, Camp Cards will be available. They are probably the easiest sale a boy can make. Start by checking out 20 and see how it goes. I’ve found that my son can sell about 20 in a single two hour or less neighborhood blitz. Other places might be better. In any case, whether or not you partake in the council’s sales, don’t let these valuable exercises pass your Scout by. Get involved, and years from now your Scout will thank you for the lessons he learned because you encouraged him.

Teach your Scout to paddle his own canoe.